"Maybe I should finally mention WOOL..."
January 15, 2012 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Hugh Howey was a self-published novelist of no real success. Until WOOL, that is - a 15,000 word "little throwaway story" he uploaded to Amazon's Kindle Marketplace one day and promptly forget about. The story he didn't blog, didn't tweet, and didn't even sell on his site hit #2 on the Kindle SciFi Bestseller list and "changed the course of e-books."

The saga: Reminded of WOOL by surprise sales numbering in the two dozen, Howey finally mentions to his readers in October that he's published WOOL; he sells 1,014 copies that month, moving from the Anthologies sub-category Top 40 to #92 on the General Science Fiction list. Spurred by this success, he decides to turn WOOL into a series of novellas, and writes WOOL 2 and 3 for NaNoWriMo while WOOL sells 3,000 copies in November and hits #6 on the SciFi list. In December, WOOL 2 and 3 are uploaded to Amazon and began to sell as WOOL 1 continues to climb to #2, shifting 250 copies a day. By January, when WOOL 4 comes out, all four Wool books are in the Science Fiction Top 20 and the 99 cent sales (more than 10,000 of them) just kept rolling in:

"I wouldn’t see the money (still haven't) for another three months, but the tally was there, staring me in the face. It's what I make in five months at the bookstore. As January began, I was making in a day what I normally make in a week. I say this knowing full well it could end at any time, which is why I’m hesitant to project even an hour into the future (and why I haven’t quit my day job)."

Wool 5 will be out on February 8th.

[Bonus Interview: Saturday Stitch and Bitch with Lyn Perry of ResAliens]
posted by DarlingBri (140 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite

 
I should maybe mention I have no connection to this author - I found the original WOOL one day trawling 99 cent fiction, enjoyed it enough to see if there was more, and posted a few times on his Facebook and blog demanding that he write faster. Although given his punishing writing schedule, I don't think that's possible.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:46 PM on January 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


WOOL sells 3,00 copies in November

300? Or 3,000?

Either way, a nice story. I'm going to drop $1 on this and see what the fuss is about.

It's good that the internet is helping artists make money from their art. Starting to look a bit grim for the middlemen.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:51 PM on January 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Starting to look a bit grim for the middlemen.

Sadly, I think it's just different, worse middlemen.
posted by latkes at 9:53 PM on January 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I used to have all these ideas for novels, but one of the things that kind of discouraged me was the idea that, okay, I finish writing this, then I have to mail it off and wait months for rejection, then mail it off again. With the Kindle e-books you can post something, and right away see if it sells of if anyone wants it. Of course, it also means you have to do all the promotion yourself. But I think it's a much more inviting model.
It's good that the internet is helping artists make money from their art. Starting to look a bit grim for the middlemen.
Unless the middle man is Amazon, in which case they take a 30% cut, and more at the 99¢ level. Still much better then what a traditional publisher would take. But there's no physical product they have to manufacture, except for the Kindle itself.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 PM on January 15, 2012


300? Or 3,000?

Sorry for the typo. The number is 3,000. And if you're interested in how pricing and cuts work on Amazon, he's very transparent about how it works and how much he makes in one of those links. I think it's interesting that even at that vicious 99 cent commission level of 70%, he still has made more money off a successful novel run than he does at his full time job.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:58 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing that's annoying about Amazon is that, not only do they not tell anyone exactly how much each book sells, they don't allow authors to say exactly how much they make. Youtube's partner program does the same thing.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 PM on January 15, 2012


[number typo fixed]
posted by taz at 10:03 PM on January 15, 2012


In some ways I think this is indicative of a larger shift we are in the middle of, a shift that uses technology to make certain aspects of life more similar to smaller scale societies. This is very becoming increasingly pervasive across a huge swath of disciplines. From boom we have seen in self releasing music helped first by decreasing prices on decent level audio equipment and now my electronic distribution, to decentralized, transnational actors engaging in warfare, being able to communicate instantly with an ever increasing % of the global population, including leaders of many nation-states. Self-releasing books to a mass audience is just a cog in all of that. I wouldn't be shocked if in 10 years Amazon isn't even the biggest distributor of this medium, epically given their DRM predilections.
posted by edgeways at 10:23 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing that's annoying about Amazon is that, not only do they not tell anyone exactly how much each book sells, they don't allow authors to say exactly how much they make. Youtube's partner program does the same thing.

Why?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:38 PM on January 15, 2012


Why?

I suspect because for most of their authors/affiliates, the numbers are miniscule and would be discouraging for newbies.
posted by maxwelton at 10:45 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why?

Ask them. I think they don't want people to be able to estimate how many kindles have been sold, how profitable they are, and so on.
posted by delmoi at 11:42 PM on January 15, 2012


I wouldn't be shocked if in 10 years Amazon isn't even the biggest distributor of this medium, epically given their DRM predilections.
Amazon has managed to do what no one else previously was able to do - convince both publishers and consumers that eBooks are a viable thing. Part of how they were able to achieve this was by working very closely with the established publishing industry. While Amazon may be trying to take more of that pie for themselves, there is a lot of opportunity for third party innovation in publishing.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:45 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is great, he got to reach an audience that would have been very difficult for him to access otherwise. It may not be life changing money he's making from it, but he is getting positive feedback that his work is liked by more than his social network.
posted by arcticseal at 12:38 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just bought it for 99c, will feedback once I finish.
posted by arcticseal at 12:44 AM on January 16, 2012


With a name like Hugh Howey I suppose he had to be a Sci Fi author.
posted by asok at 1:19 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"With a name like Hugh Howey I suppose he had to be a Sci Fi author."

XD

A few notes on Amazon:

For my works, the DRM is up to me. I always choose "no DRM." Why? Because I hate DRM. If you buy my stories, you should be able to put them on as many devices as you like. I think the big publishers are the ones who mess this up. I could be wrong.

I don't think Amazon forbids us from revealing our sales. Haven't seen that in any fine print. They don't release Kindle device sales for whatever reason, but they do release sales figures and earnings amounts for other writers. A press release last week for the Kindle Select program gave figures to the penny.

-Hugh
posted by Hugh Howey at 3:06 AM on January 16, 2012 [66 favorites]


Am I the only one who keeps hearing "WOOLLLlll" as said by Victor Garber in the Respawn episode of 30 Rock?
posted by Blake at 4:52 AM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


mefi's own™ Hugh Howey!
posted by Tom-B at 5:51 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Welcome Hugh, hope you like it here.
posted by arcticseal at 6:15 AM on January 16, 2012


I ran across the first novella while slumming in the dollar ebooks a while back - and am overjoyed to find that there's sequels! BUYING NOW.
posted by mrbill at 7:16 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"that vicious 99 cent commission level of 70%"

The fact that the free market allows this sort of financial transgression is an excellent indicator of how badly publishers have screwed authors in the past. Granted, they've provided services like editing, PR, and, in some cases, physical manufacturing and distribution. But given the fact that Amazon doesn't do the first one, the second one is automated and the third now exists solely as bandwidth, it's hard to imagine that they feel like they're 230% more important/deserving of financial reward than the person who actually created the book... it's still pretty hard to swallow objectively.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:47 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blue_Villain:

Agreed. The reason Amazon does this is ostensibly to keep the written word from being devalued (it forces indie writers to post a $2.99 minimum). I understand their stance, and also understand the complaints.

After receiving criticism on this, Amazon launched the "Kindle Singles" program, where 99 cent books receive a 70% royalty. You have to submit your work and have it okayed by their editorial staff, which is to make sure the quality is up to snuff (editing/grammar/typos).

It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out. The entire market is in its infancy. I wouldn't assume anything in place today is completely rigid.

-Hugh
posted by Hugh Howey at 7:55 AM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


So for the additional charge, they actually do a bit of editing?

That's excellent info that I was not aware of.

Thanks for sharing.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:01 AM on January 16, 2012


I wish! They expect *you* to have edited it professionally. :(

It's a form of gatekeeping. What agents and publishers do on the print side of things. They also promote the Kindle Singles with more gusto than regular Kindle books, so there's some prestige as well. I submitted WOOL for review, but it takes a few weeks to hear back. My fingers are crossed. It could be the difference between a career as a writer and looking for another job in a year.

-Hugh
posted by Hugh Howey at 8:12 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


See also: Amanda Hocking, who, interestingly, has now signed a traditional publishing deal after making millions self-publishing ebooks.

Also, Hugh - WOOL is just a fantastic title. I wouldn't be surprised if that had a lot to do with the unexpected success: I know I just dropped £1.02 on the book purely to sate my curiosity about the WOOL, whatever it might be. I'm sort of secretly hoping that it's just, you know, wool and the plot hinges on some sort of distopian future knitting accident.
posted by jack_mo at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I always choose "no DRM." Why? Because I hate DRM. If you buy my stories, you should be able to put them on as many devices as you like.

You just earned yourself a sale!
posted by DU at 11:45 AM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wait, WTF? You can't buy the book without a Kindle? Like, getting a PDF or some standard eBook format?

Fuck you, Amazon.
posted by DU at 11:46 AM on January 16, 2012


Wait, WTF? You can't buy the book without a Kindle? Like, getting a PDF or some standard eBook format?

Fuck you, Amazon.


What about the various Kindle PC clients?
posted by grobstein at 12:08 PM on January 16, 2012


Kindle books can be read on anything. I read on my smartphone all the time.

Here's the best way to think of the Kindle store: It's your cloud-based library. Every book you ever purchase will always be there, waiting for you to re-download it. (And you can suck the books off your PC, Mac, or Kindle if you are uncomfortable with that and want backups.

There are some areas where having a single standard are better for the consumer. Technology is one of those things. Ten different memory card standards suck (in my opinion). I, for one, am excited for Amazon's dominance. They are incredibly generous to both the reader and the author. The people they are screwing are the big publishers and the large chain stores, which doesn't bother me in the slightest. (Indie stores are actually making a comeback in the wake of Border's shuttering and popular demand from discerning readers).

-Hugh
posted by Hugh Howey at 12:49 PM on January 16, 2012


That's OK. I'll wait for someone to free the book from Amazon's system and then I'll send Hugh $1 directly.
posted by DU at 1:05 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm epublishing now -- I'm the publisher, not the author, although I have reprinted my own book, because, why not? -- and DRM is entirely up to the publisher (or author if they're self-publishing); it's a check-box on the form, which I never check because I think DRM is bullshit. I haven't noticed anything about keeping sales figures a secret.

Unless the middle man is Amazon, in which case they take a 30% cut, and more at the 99¢ level. Still much better then what a traditional publisher would take. But there's no physical product they have to manufacture, except for the Kindle itself.
posted by delmoi at 11:54 PM on January 15


Publishers were typically paying 7-10% royalties to the author, but they didn't keep the other 90%. The 30% commission on $2.99 and up books is the same as what I would have been paying a brick-and-mortar store to sell a print book, back in the day. They were also expected to pay their distributors, warehousing people, etc. Publishers still need to edit, copyedit, do book design, proof, and advertise/market the book, and fact-check if it's non-fiction. I'm a one-person operation and it's an amazing amount of work even without the physical product. None of that is a reason to rip off the author, of course, and the 70% commission on 99cent books strikes me as exploitative, but there's more to publishing than simply manufacturing.

Wait, WTF? You can't buy the book without a Kindle? Like, getting a PDF or some standard eBook format?
posted by DU at 1:46 PM on January 16


You can get a Kindle app for your iPad or smartphone, too. It's my impression that many people who sell on Amazon also sell through iTunes, B&N, etc., who all sell epub (instead of mobi, the Kindle format); Amazon doesn't ask for exclusive rights to sell your book (unless you're making it available for loan through Amazon Prime, and that's only for three months). It's ridiculous that the Kindle uses a different format than everybody else, I agree, but having made both I'll tell you that imho mobi is much easier to design, at least for poetry books. I had to do handstands and hold my face just right to get the epub to do hanging indents, whereas it was trivial in mobi.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:08 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


DU - go to my website, find my email link, and give me your email address. I'll send you an epub of the first book for free. Just 'cause I'm like that. Introduce yourself as "DU."

-Hugh
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:32 PM on January 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


That was handled very graciously, Mr. Howey, with far more tact than I might have employed.

Props; you've just made approximately $1.20.
posted by The Confessor at 1:53 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


What about the various Kindle PC clients?

They don't work with other e-ink readers, like the Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc.

Plus there are people who are philosophically dedicated to open-source formats. An equivalent would be if the music market online had developed like the ebook business has so far and buying music off Amazon gave you their proprietary format instead of an mp3. Sure you could load their proprietary software or buy their hardware to play it, but some people just want to use their mp3 player.

TeleRead had an interesting post about it today -- the comments have been really good. The market will mature into having one standard eventually, surely. I don't really care which one it is as long as they pick one and stick with it. Until then I just use Calibre and enjoy tons and tons of books without having to worry about storage issues.

(I do still worry about proper editing. Just because it's an ebook doesn't mean corners can be cut, people. And that is worth paying for.)
posted by rewil at 2:45 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hugh - if Amazon doesn't require you to be exclusive, then why not do direct sales from your website? I would love to buy direct from you. A 70% commission to Amazon sounds a bit ridiculous.

70%!?! I mean, is the editing done by magic elves who ride around on a solid gold chariot? Come on!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:52 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Big props to Hugh and I can't wait for the next Wool. SF, hooray! I read them on my Blackberry Curve at bedtime! (There's no need for a night light then!)
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:36 PM on January 16, 2012


Also, I thought Hugh was definitely British when I read Wool 1-4!
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:39 PM on January 16, 2012


Hugh - if Amazon doesn't require you to be exclusive, then why not do direct sales from your website? I would love to buy direct from you. A 70% commission to Amazon sounds a bit ridiculous.

Excellent question. I actually just moved my books over to the Kindle Select program, which necessitates them being sold exclusively through Amazon. It doesn't say I can't give them away, however, which I've done for a few Nook owners. I don't want to upset readers, but I've already made more from the free "borrows" on Kindle than I do on the Nook store in a month.

Amazon isn't forcing me to do this, market interactions are. Nobody buys indie stuff on the Nook, not to the degree they do on the Kindle. The reviews and recommendation engine on Amazon help readers discover the little nuggets of gold (like WOOL XD).


Also, I thought Hugh was definitely British when I read Wool 1-4!


*spittake*

Haha! I take that as a compliment. I don't know why. Does that make me an Anglophile? Or just a lover of righteous accents?
posted by Hugh Howey at 4:16 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Excellent question. I actually just moved my books over to the Kindle Select program, which necessitates them being sold exclusively through Amazon. It doesn't say I can't give them away, however, which I've done for a few Nook owners. I don't want to upset readers, but I've already made more from the free "borrows" on Kindle than I do on the Nook store in a month.

Interesting. Although, I suppose that Nook owners can always buy the books through Amazon, and convert them to ePub using Calibre. It's free, and very easy to use.

The reviews and recommendation engine on Amazon help readers discover the little nuggets of gold (like WOOL XD).

It's good to see that you're getting something out of those high commissions that Amazon is creaming off the top.

A follow up: Have you recieved any interest from traditional publishers, in the wake of your self-publishing success? Would you consider going with a traditional publisher at this point?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:32 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good point on the conversion! I'll have to recommend that.

And I haven't had any inquiries, no. And I would listen to any offer, but then probably turn it down. I have friends at big publishers, and their experiences terrify me. Something about someone else owning my story feels wrong. I had a book published by a small press (my first novel), and I have nothing but love for that publisher, but I eventually bought the rights back. It stressed me out to have someone else *own* my work. It's hard to explain.

This might sound insane, but I would rather make it as a writer on my own, one reader at a time. There's something blue-collar about that. Something that appeals to me. I spent two years of my life roofing, another two pulling wire for an AV company, both grueling and labor-intensive jobs. I was happier doing this honest work than I was for the eight years I captained yachts for the rich and famous. It's not even close.

Writing this way feels more like roofing to me. More direct and honest. Being with an agent and a publisher is great for others, but from my limited experience, I don't think it would make me happy. Maybe someone could convince me otherwise.

For now, I'm selling enough books at 99 cents to quit my day job, stay at home with my dog, cook dinner for my wife, and write 6-8 hours a day. If I can swing this, I'll be the happiest and luckiest man on the planet. And still broke enough to feel like an artist. :D

-Hugh
posted by Hugh Howey at 4:40 PM on January 16, 2012 [29 favorites]


I'll send you an epub of the first book for free.

Thanks for the thought, but that's not really my deal. I'm not looking to save $1. Heck, I almost bought it on paper for $5 instead. (Didn't mainly because I don't need more physical books at my house.)

It's more like...you want to sell me something and I want to buy it, but Amazon won't let it happen. When I clicked the "add to cart" it was all "whoa, you don't own a Kindle! You need to buy one or register one you already own to buy this product". If I can't use it how I want, I don't want it.

If you'd be willing to send me one and accept $1 (or more) in exchange, sure. But it sounds like that would go against the deal you have with Amazon. So...I'll wait and find it elsewhere (and donate $1 to you if you are still around then).
posted by DU at 5:17 PM on January 16, 2012


DU - you can 'register a Kindle' by installing the Kindle app or reader program on pretty much any device except a competing e-reader. So you could install the Kindle reader on your desktop, and that would work.

If Hugh emails you a book, then you could make an entirely unconnected donation using the paypal button on his website.

Hugh - thanks for your answers. I look forward to reading your work, and best of luck with WOOL 5. I hope you stick around on MeFi.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:25 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I completely understand. I'm a huge fan of open-source everything and free-usage rights. How about this: If you manage to find a pirated copy somewhere, snag it and enjoy it. If you want to donate a buck on my site, I have one of those starving-artist buttons prominently displayed. :)
posted by Hugh Howey at 5:28 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


DU - I didn't want to outright suggest that, but I'm glad someone else did. ;)
posted by Hugh Howey at 5:28 PM on January 16, 2012


You don't even have to install the Kindle app - don't forget the Kindle Cloud Reader, which works in pretty much any modern browser.
posted by mrbill at 5:44 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's actually a blog entry entitled "Why my ebooks will only be available on the Kindle" for those who are interested.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:33 AM on January 17, 2012


mefi's own™ Hugh Howey!

Poor guy had to sell 17 books just to pay for his account.
For my works, the DRM is up to me. I always choose "no DRM." Why? Because I hate DRM. If you buy my stories, you should be able to put them on as many devices as you like. I think the big publishers are the ones who mess this up. I could be wrong.
Maybe I'm wrong but is there any easy way to get un-DRM'd off a kindle? Even if you don't add any 'official' DRM my impression was that it's pretty difficult for a regular person to move their kindle books off their kindles and on to something else.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


delmoi, an unDRMed mobi file can be converted to epub (the file format everybody else uses) with any number of free software packages - the one I hear the most about is Calibre.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:41 AM on January 17, 2012


I for one am quite excited to see what Apple's move into the textbook marketplace will be. An ePub "garage band" would be fabulous, and true competition in online book prep and sales (iBooks? Please) would make Amazon work a little harder and perhaps be a bit more evenhanded with commissions.

Anyway, Amazon is still on my shit list for killing off Stanza, the best app for actually reading content yet created. So I'd like to see at least a bloody nose come out of it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:49 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm wrong but is there any easy way to get un-DRM'd off a kindle?

(1) Hook up usb cable
(2) Drag to desktop

if file is .azw

(3) Drag into Calibre
(4) Push "convert" button, select any format target device can read
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:06 AM on January 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Poor guy had to sell 17 books just to pay for his account.
I'm reasonably sure it was a shrewd move on a purely financial basis. I've bought his series just on the strength of his interactions here.
posted by Lame_username at 8:30 AM on January 17, 2012


Anyway, Amazon is still on my shit list for killing off Stanza, the best app for actually reading content yet created.

Not sure if you're aware, but Stanza vv3.2 was released in November 2011, and is supposed to be iOS5 compatible -- however Amazon has supposedly said this is the end of the line.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:33 AM on January 17, 2012


All the books are in the free Prime lending program, although it's probably not worth using that for $1 book.

The fact that the free market allows this sort of financial transgression is an excellent indicator of how badly publishers have screwed authors in the past.

Well, it's not really a financial transgression, it's an economic incentive. It's Amazon NOT saying the minimum price is $3, but making it a financially poor choice to price under that point.
posted by smackfu at 11:28 AM on January 17, 2012


One thing that's annoying about Amazon is that, not only do they not tell anyone exactly how much each book sells, they don't allow authors to say exactly how much they make.

If anyone else was curious about this: Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions
You will not, without our express, prior written permission: ... (b) disclose Amazon Confidential Information (as defined below) to any third party or to any employee other than an employee who needs to know the information; ... "Amazon Confidential Information" means ... (3) any sales data relating to the sale of Digital Books or other information we provide or make available to you in connection with the Program.
posted by smackfu at 11:34 AM on January 17, 2012


A guide to using the Kindle for PC/Mac reader app, Calibre, and Calibre Plugins to de-DRM Kindle titles, with download links: Ebook Formats, DRM and You — A Guide for the Perplexed.

End result once you take the five minutes to set everything up: download book in Kindle Reader, open it there once, drag .azw file for book to Calibre. The copy in Calibre will lack DRM and can be converted to the format of your choice.
posted by mrbill at 12:11 PM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a PC gamer, I've always appreciated companies that release DRM-free titles. Bethesda, if I remember correctly, is one of these. Great games will be rewarded. Paranoia and protectionism will not. I think the same is true of books, and I hope they sort this out to make it easier for the reader.

The one thing I can say about Amazon is they are trying to make their books readable on ANY device. And isn't that the goal of no-DRM?

What they should do is have a gold star beside all the non-DRM'ed books, so readers can see immediately what they're dealing with. I would fully support this (I mean, obviously, I love getting gold stars).

In other book news, I've had my first contact regarding film/TV rights today. Yesterday, I had an inquiry about foreign language rights. This, all on the same weekend that I wrapped up the final installment in the series, which kicks so much ass. XD
posted by Hugh Howey at 12:25 PM on January 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just noticed that apparently Amazon, besides blocking books in certain regions, also does regional pricing. Wool appears to be $3 instead of 99c here.
posted by Memo at 1:05 PM on January 17, 2012


Memo: I've had other complaints about that. I think the currency exchange plays a role, as well as regional taxes/tariffs.
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:06 PM on January 17, 2012


Hugh, I just read the last line of book 4. AWESOME.

Now I can't stand the wait till Book 5.
posted by mrbill at 1:08 PM on January 17, 2012


Another sale! I'm looking forward to reading it later. It is so encouraging that this can still happen in our ultra-consumerized jaded cynincal world.
posted by monopas at 1:22 PM on January 17, 2012


Chalk up another sale due to your positive interaction here and rejection of DRM.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 1:39 PM on January 17, 2012


Sold!
posted by Happy Dave at 1:42 PM on January 17, 2012


mrbill: Thanks! Glad you liked it.

I'm notorious for my cliffhangers, the kind that have you pumping your fists rather than punching a wall.

WOOL 5 is, without a doubt, the most satisfying thing I've ever written. The balance between tension and reveal feels *right* to me. I think readers are going to put it down and wonder what the hell they've just been through. In a good way.

At least, that's my hope. Good to aim high rather than settle low.
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:54 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, Amazon's rather hostile approach to open standards means I won't buy things from their ebook store. Why Amazon invented not one but two non-standard formats for ebooks (Topaz and later AZW, which is just a bastardization of mobipocket) I'll never understand. Hey, if they want to sell their DRM books as Topaz or AZW, great. Why in the hell, if I purchase a non-DRMed book, should I be forced to download it in a non-standard format?

So, sadly, Mr. Howey, until your books are available somewhere where I can get EPUB or even HTML files, you will sadly remain outside my remit.
posted by introp at 3:38 PM on January 17, 2012


I'm confused: some folks in this thread are referring to a 70% commission (i.e., 70% to Amazon and 30% to the author) and some are referring to a 70% royalty (i.e. 70% to the author and 30% to Amazon). Which is it?
posted by ocherdraco at 3:45 PM on January 17, 2012


ocherdraco: Amazon keeps 65% of monies on books priced below $2.99. For example: I make 35 cents on a 99 cent book, Amazon keeps 64 cents.

On books $2.99 or greater, the author keeps 70%, which is UNHEARD of.

If I was signed with an agent and publisher, I'd be getting closer to 8% or 9%.

Amazon is the great liberator in this case, not the evil corporation. The publishers are the schmucks.
posted by Hugh Howey at 4:18 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amazon invented Topaz because it is some weird shit. It solves the problem of what format you use for an ebook where the publisher doesn't have an electronic version and you just have scans. Behind the scenes it is OCR text but what is displayed is the scanned letters converted into a pseudo font. So even if the OCR goes bad, you still end up with a legible ebook and you can wrap words properly. Pretty clever really.
posted by smackfu at 4:21 PM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've formatted books for Smashwords, iBooks, Nook, and standard ePub.

The Amazon .mobi format wins, hands-down. I can do it in my sleep and have it look great. The others can be like pulling teeth, and I hear other self-pubbers say the same thing all the time.

With my own Kindle, I just drag and drop all the files right off the hardware and into a folder on my desktop. Quick backup. I own everything; I can convert them to whatever I want.

I'm a huge fan. And I was before I started selling anything more than a dozen or so books a month.
posted by Hugh Howey at 4:25 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I was signed with an agent and publisher, I'd be getting closer to 8% or 9%.

Ugh. That's appalling.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:50 PM on January 17, 2012


It's worth noting in all of this that authors typically also get advances against their royalties, which can be anywhere between a couple thousand books to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So I mean, yeah, 8 or 9 percent sounds pretty shitty compared with 30 or 70, but with Amazon if you don't hit it big like Mr. Howey here finally has, you'd see a few bucks here or there but no guarantee of any real money, ever.

Eventually somebody is going to figure out how to take the curation of the traditional publishing world and combine it with the disintermediation of Amazon's approach, and they are going to transform the industry and make some serious dough.
posted by pts at 4:57 PM on January 17, 2012


But isn't an advance, well, an advance? As in, if the book didn't sell, and the publisher didn't make enough money to cover the advance, the author would have to pay it back?

Or is it just a misnomer?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2012


Yeah they don't pay them back. This is where a lot of the money in publishing (and music) goes.
posted by smackfu at 5:06 PM on January 17, 2012


Clarification quesiton: if I were to buy WOOL 1 from Amazon through the PC Kindle app, would it show up on my hard drive as a .AZW or a .mobi file? The two books I purchased through them back when I was testing out sellers were both AZW, despite being no-DRM books.
posted by introp at 5:24 PM on January 17, 2012


This was an awesome read...finished it in a few hours, will be getting the entire series next.
posted by odinsdream at 5:35 PM on January 17, 2012


If, like me, you're a big ebook person, I second the recommendation of Calibre for managing your library (and doing conversions, getting metadata, and much else). I resisted it for a long time, and the software was pretty flaky, but it's gotten much better with recent revisions, and the fact that I can start up the content server on my PC and see it immediately in Stanza (or other apps that have the same funcationality) on my iPad and just grab books inside the app, seamlessly, to add to the library on the device, well, that's made of win.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:55 PM on January 17, 2012


If I was signed with an agent and publisher, I'd be getting closer to 8% or 9%.

Ugh. That's appalling.


Huh? You think paper grows on trees?
posted by Sparx at 7:02 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Printing costs are miniscule. I am unconvinced that the value added or the costs incurred by publishers and retailers is worth 91% of the purchase price of a book.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:20 PM on January 17, 2012


Which is not to say that the contributions of publishers are worth nothing. Of course there are editing, design, printing, storage, marketing costs...etc. that must be factored into the purchase price.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:24 PM on January 17, 2012


Chart of the breakdown of profit for hardcover and trade paperbacks. As the article eventually points out, a lot of the split is down to the publisher's risk level.

I just went through the numbers with a publisher today; for a small press, with a cover price of $20, I think (I do not have my notes) 10 goes to the retailer, 2 goes to the author, 3 goes to the distributor and 1.50 goes to the sales person. Out of the remainder, the publisher pays for printing, editing, promotion, warehousing, artwork and layout. The beauty of digital for guys like this is that it doubles his margin even if you give the author the same $2 on a discounted digital sale. That is how it works in this market; other markets will be different.

In short: I don't have much of a beef with publishers, I just recognise that traditional publishing isn't a sustainable model for smaller presses and smaller authors.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:37 PM on January 17, 2012


Just nipping in to say "Howdy" to Mr. Howie. So...
 _     ____  _      ____ ___  _   _      ____   
/ \ /|/  _ \/ \  /|/  _ \\  \//  / \__/|/  __\  
| |_||| / \|| |  ||| | \| \  /   | |\/|||  \/|  
| | ||| \_/|| |/\||| |_/| / /    | |  |||    /__
\_/ \|\____/\_/  \|\____//_/  _  \_/  \|\_/\_\\/
                             |/                 
 _     ____  _      ________  _ _ 
/ \ /|/  _ \/ \  /|/  __/\  \/// \
| |_||| / \|| |  |||  \   \  / | |
| | ||| \_/|| |/\|||  /_  / /  \_/
\_/ \|\____/\_/  \|\____\/_/   (_)
                                  
I shan't be thinking you'll regret your membership. Over a decade here, personally, and ever so happy. I do wish I had a Kindle and (more importantly) an internet-friendly payment method as I would happily purchase copies of your books, based on your apparent personality, rational outlook on epublishing, and the apparent enjoyment of the rest of these azure reprobates. Not, however, due to your dance skills or hat collection.
posted by Samizdata at 7:51 PM on January 17, 2012


Sparx: "If I was signed with an agent and publisher, I'd be getting closer to 8% or 9%.

Ugh. That's appalling.


Huh? You think paper grows on trees?
"

No, DUH! Money does. Sheesh. Where did YOU go to school? Or did you?
posted by Samizdata at 7:52 PM on January 17, 2012


But isn't an advance, well, an advance? As in, if the book didn't sell, and the publisher didn't make enough money to cover the advance, the author would have to pay it back?

No, the advance is yours to keep. But you don't get any royalties until you've "earned out" your advance, i.e., your notional cut of sales of your book equals the amount you've been advanced.

For a little-known author, especially one early on their career, earning out your royalty is a very big deal. It both means that you start getting a trickle of royalties, and more importantly for your future career as a working writer, that the publisher's risk on you has, from their perspective, paid off.
posted by pts at 7:58 PM on January 17, 2012


Chart of the breakdown of profit for hardcover and trade paperbacks.

Thanks, darlingbri and pts. It's nice to learn new things.

I'm still a little perplexed as to why the retailers manage to snag the lion's share of the purchase price, but I suppose it's because they can. The other shares are fixed by being incorporated into the wholesale price, but the retailer can adjust the retail price, to the extent that market will bear at any rate.

No, the advance is yours to keep.

I hate it when word don't mean what they mean. Stupid evolved languages.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:36 PM on January 17, 2012


Heh, guess I was a schmuck for four years. (I was an editor at a New York publishing house until last summer.) That being said, I'm pretty thrilled at new models of publshing, especially those that put more money in the hands of the author.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:40 PM on January 17, 2012


I'm still a little perplexed as to why the retailers manage to snag the lion's share of the purchase price, but I suppose it's because they can.

I can source you a chart of the cost of retailing items that shoppers never think about, but basically you have to add up the building lease, maintenance, staff, security, insurance, cleaning, electricity, computers, scanners and EPOS systems, the incredible cost of theft, and the onsite stock warehousing of "let me check out back" inventory. Every. Single. Individual. Retail. Item. in a store carries overheads and essentially has to pay rent. This has been calculated down to the last penny and is why at a grocery store, milk gets more shelf space than say, nuts. There is a metric by which the retailer isn't so much taking a cut as collecting rent from the publisher for the space to sell the publisher's books. Obviously, the faster a title sells and restocks, the more profitable it is for everyone in the chain. This is part of the publisher's risk - they essentially end up paying the rent on dead inventory until the retailer returns or remainders.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:08 PM on January 17, 2012


I can source you a chart of the cost of retailing items that shoppers never think about...

I'd appreciate that.

This conversation has been most eductional. Thanks, all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:23 PM on January 17, 2012


Or even educational.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:24 PM on January 17, 2012


bought and read first wool. good. happy to have howie here on mefi. off to buy next wool.
posted by davidmsc at 11:16 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


DarlingBri: Thank you for saying so succinctly what I was still struggling to figure out how to explain. :)
posted by bardophile at 11:24 PM on January 17, 2012


I went ahead and borrowed Wool via my Amazon Prime account to check it out. (The author still gets full royalties as if I had bought it, which is pretty cool.)

I thought the story was well written, but kind of depressing. Does the rest of the series get less bleak? If so, I'll probably buy the whole thing.
posted by tdismukes at 5:05 AM on January 18, 2012


So I went ahead and purchased WOOL, with the idea of converting it to an epub or mobi and reading it on my Sony Reader, but now my book is stuck in Amazon's Cloud Reader. This is not the end of the world, but I wish I could figure out how to liberate that file, which I imagine is on my hard drive somewhere.
posted by col_pogo at 5:34 AM on January 18, 2012


I thought the story was well written, but kind of depressing. Does the rest of the series get less bleak? If so, I'll probably buy the whole thing.

Man, exact opposite response here. I'm hoping the bleaker the better! I'm partway through 2.
posted by odinsdream at 7:54 AM on January 18, 2012


(1) Hook up usb cable
(2) Drag to desktop

if file is .azw


Okay cool! That's good to know.

One interesting thing about e-books: It gives you some interesting possibilities in terms of interactive fiction. I was thinking of putting out an e-book and I thought about having different versions readers could click to decide what kinds of things they're interested in, so if they like action you could tag the non-action stuff and make it a quicker read, or you could write different versions of scenes for people who have different tolerance for violence or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 10:18 AM on January 18, 2012


I thought the story was well written, but kind of depressing. Does the rest of the series get less bleak? If so, I'll probably buy the whole thing.

The bleakness scale goes up and down throughout the series. I'd say the first book is the bleakest, overall. There are more traditional triumphs and travails in books 3, 4, and 5. Book 5 is the length of a small novel and has pleased beta readers to no end.

It is dystopian, so part of the allure for some readers is to wallow in the grittiness of the world depicted. I'll tell you this: if you read them all, there will be times that you pump your fists.

(And times you want to punch a wall)
posted by Hugh Howey at 10:47 AM on January 18, 2012


Whoa, delmoi, that's an awesome idea! I just had my first negative review of WOOL 4 because I used "the 'F' word." They loved the story and writing, but dinged me three stars for 9 instances of that offensive utterance. I can see a system like you're talking about, where someone picks the cleaner, bloodier, sexier, scarier version of the same story. It would be a different twist on the old "choose your own adventure books."

Very cool idea!

-Hugh
posted by Hugh Howey at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2012


One interesting thing about e-books: It gives you some interesting possibilities in terms of interactive fiction.

The main problem is that the non-touch Kindles are really great at paging through a book, and pretty kludgy for everything else. Even following footnotes is tedious. So making an interactive book that isn't painful to read may be impossible.
posted by smackfu at 11:32 AM on January 18, 2012


If I was signed with an agent and publisher, I'd be getting closer to 8% or 9%.

Ugh. That's appalling.

Huh? You think paper grows on trees?


I should have been clearer. I was talking about e-books.

!!!!

Think about that. Less than 10% of the retail price goes to the author for an e-book!

And some publishers have contracts that stipulate they own rights for as long as a book is in print or available. The e-revolution (and POD) has effectively given some of these publishers rights for all eternity.

More modern contracts state that rights revert when a certain number of books sell over a certain period, but not everyone is modernizing their contracts.
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2012


Samizdata: I dig that ANSI art!
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2012


If anyone else was curious about this: Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions
You will not, without our express, prior written permission: ... (b) disclose Amazon Confidential Information (as defined below) to any third party or to any employee other than an employee who needs to know the information; ... "Amazon Confidential Information" means ... (3) any sales data relating to the sale of Digital Books or other information we provide or make available to you in connection with the Program.


Great find! Very interesting. There's a TON of threads over on Absolute Write where people detail their monthly sales rates and earnings. I've seen bloggers do the same, even posting screen captures of their monthly sales. I wonder if they would ever try to crack down on something so pervasive.

You might already guess from my stance on DRM and open-source, but I frankly don't care about fine print. Not until I get a cease-and-desist letter. Amazon is making good money off of me, and I am an outspoken supporter of their business practices (most of them). They'd be insane to hound me for getting aspiring writers excited about their prospects in this modern publishing world.

I really appreciate the find and post. And *you* guys thought you were learning something here! I'm just as clueless as any of you! :)
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:09 PM on January 18, 2012


If I was signed with an agent and publisher, I'd be getting closer to 8% or 9%.
...
I should have been clearer. I was talking about e-books.

posted by Hugh Howey at 3:00 PM on January 18


Standard royalties on e-books should be more in the 30% range. I know a lot of companies are being slow to change, but most of the authors I talk to get somewhere around 30% of the cover price (or sometimes 50% of net, where net means what the publisher gets after Amazon or B&N or whoever takes their cut, which works out to 35% of the cover price in most cases). My authors certainly do. Howie, if you ever decide to go with a traditional publisher and they offer you print royalties on ebooks, renegotiate.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:56 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have heard they're getting better. Where the royalty was bad was when the price was discounted, and they were getting a percentage of net.

Here's a great exchange between two authors who have published both ways:

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/12/eisler-konrath-vs-hachette.html

It's an entertaining read. Highly recommended.
posted by Hugh Howey at 3:28 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Very informative comments in this thread! I borrowed Wool from Amazon Prime, and am enjoying it much. I'll likely buy the rest of the series.

Hugh, I'm interested to hear about your thoughts/experiences on the differences in publishing on the Kindle marketplace versus Apple's iBooks?
posted by lotsofno at 4:56 AM on January 19, 2012


lotsofno:

Both iBooks and Amazon are supremely simple to publish to. The process is a little different between the two (and they might be different for you, depending on the tools you use).

I write on a Mac (after holding out for decades and being 100% PC). The reason I made the switch was because you can only do the upload on a Mac (and the Air is the perfect writing tool). For iBooks, you use a website called iTunes Connect. You have to create an account, which requires submitting tax information and the like. Then you download the iTunes Producer program (which only runs on Mac, at least when I first used it). This takes an ePub and various markup data (genre, description, author) and publishes to the iTunes store. It takes 10 minutes once you know the process.

The Kindle store is similar but a tad easier. The account setup is immediate (you don't have to be "accepted" like you do with iTunes) and you upload a Word or .rtf file instead of an epub.

That's the publishing side. On the sales side, you will do MUCH better on Amazon than the iTunes store. Enough so that I've pulled all my works off iTunes. I make more from the Kindle "borrow" program than I was with iTunes and Nook combined (a lot more).

Big announcements from Apple today. Not sure how that will change things for indie writers. I was really hoping for a new version of iWork and Pages today. :(

Hope that helps.
posted by Hugh Howey at 9:40 AM on January 19, 2012


I thought I'd never have a reason to download the Kindle app for the iPad, but now I can't wait to get home and download this.
posted by yeti at 1:53 PM on January 19, 2012


okay, chalk up another sale --- at this rate, HH, you'll pay for your membership here in no time!
posted by easily confused at 4:03 PM on January 19, 2012


Ha! Thanks, but I think the membership is totally worth it. I dig the sense of community here.
posted by Hugh Howey at 6:15 PM on January 19, 2012


Hugh, I am totally immersed in Wool right now and am absolutely loving it. It is so very, very good. Just another voice to add to the chorus thanking you for commenting here (and for demonstrating how excellent self-published content can be).
posted by jbickers at 6:27 PM on January 19, 2012


So I was moseying around amazon feeling all broke and hateful and looking for freebies to read and this "Wool" thing keeps coming up as recommended and I'm all, bah, self-published garbage I'm not gonna get burned like that again and then this little light goes off in the back of my head and it's accompanied by that distinct "ding!" that indicates a Synaptic Event has occurred which probably isn't a crippling cerebrovascular malfunction and I remembered a MetaFilter post I'd skipped over and damn if it isn't the author of that "Wool" thing himself participating and now I'm halfway through it and it's damn good and all of this is just to say yay amazon, yay MeFi, yay Wool.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:45 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Haha. Thanks, BitterOldPunk. It's so cool to hear the thought process of someone browsing and deciding to take a chance on WOOL, especially because of their MetaFilter browsing.

jbickers: Thanks a ton! It is so difficult -- nearly impossible -- to stand out from the incredible number of books being published every day. Feedback from readers, reviews, word-of-mouth . . . I take none of it for granted. It's the only way other people will find these titles that I pour so much work into.

I'm currently revising WOOL 5, and this is where I fear most self-pubbed authors miss the chance to create something as polished as the big boys. I work with three editors (one professional, two family members), and I take every ounce of their criticism to heart. I have gone through WOOL 5 twice on my own before sending it to them, and now have gone through it once more for each of their corrected manuscripts. That's 5 passes. I'm currently working on the 6th. There will be another search for typos and then a read-through. All this with a roughly 60,000 word manuscript, which puts it at FIVE TIMES the length of the original WOOL.

I hope that puts the process into perspective. Standing out in this digital publishing age isn't easy, but this is what I feel it takes. The rest is up to the readers!

I just put up a blog post this morning about the process if anyone's interested:

http://www.hughhowey.com/?p=1662
posted by Hugh Howey at 8:09 AM on January 20, 2012


I'm going to be really, really upset when I reach the end of this. I'm partway through 4.
posted by odinsdream at 12:45 PM on January 20, 2012


I think you all might get a kick out of these. I know you've seen a million of them before, but I'm quite proud of the number of gags I was able to fit in.

I made these two years ago as I began to promote my second novel. Lemme know what you think. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex1BeHrkbzo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHYTCommtCk
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:52 PM on January 21, 2012


Hugh, just finished WOOL and downloaded WOOL2, which is shaping up nicely. Damn you Amazon Whispernet for making it so easy to spend money!
posted by arcticseal at 12:56 AM on January 22, 2012


Haha. Yeah, it's a dangerous little device. Gone are the days of waiting until you could get to the bookstore and hoping they have the sequel in stock, or waiting on the UPS guy to deliver the next in a series. My Luddite friends, who have never given an e-reader a chance, have no idea how many advantages there are like this.

I do love books, but I love reading even more. And I don't let my passion for the medium get in the way of my obsession with the content. Deliver me a story. I don't care how. Just put fantastic images in my brain.
posted by Hugh Howey at 1:38 AM on January 22, 2012


Whoa, delmoi, that's an awesome idea! I just had my first negative review of WOOL 4 because I used "the 'F' word." They loved the story and writing, but dinged me three stars for 9 instances of that offensive utterance. I can see a system like you're talking about, where someone picks the cleaner, bloodier, sexier, scarier version of the same story. It would be a different twist on the old "choose your own adventure books."
Yeah totally. This was all about getting better reviews by making sure the reader got what they wanted out of the story.

Actually the don't reveal how much you made: I think I actually read the terms and conditions when I was researching how to do an e-book. The interactive fiction idea came about because learned that to publish a kindle file, you just take a bunch of HTML and zip it up.

I also thought of doing, for example, basic and 'extended' versions of the story, alternate endings, or even the notes was writing about my story Idea. stuff like that. So just like with DVDs, they sell the basic movie, plus annotated versions, etc. With a kindle you can do 'special features' with a book.

My only problem was actually sitting down to write a book. I spent tons of time world building and writing all these notes about the structure of this hypothetical world, I even came up with a basic plot before I started. But, when it came to actually writing I was just too much of perfectionist, and I think I enjoy "world building" more then actually creating plots. I feel like there's no way the story could be as cool as interesting the imaginary world, and that by actually typing it out the whole book (rather then, say, just the first half) you can only diminish it and create something kind of mundane. An unfinished story has a world of possibilities, while a complete story has only one -- Which is actually another reason I kind of liked the idea of making it 'interactive'. I could avoid making difficult choices about what I want to cut.

Anyway, I'm working on a software project now but I think next I might try to get back to this book idea.
posted by delmoi at 4:13 AM on January 22, 2012


Dear Hugh,

Please finish WOOL 5 immediately.

Best wishes,
odinsdream

p.s., OH GOD PLEASE FINISH IT ALREADY
posted by odinsdream at 1:39 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh heavenly days YES finish Wool 5 soon --- so I started #1 on Thursday, finished #2 by last night, and am now most of the way through #3..... what with taking a little time out for work and sleep and other pointless ventures, I estimate I'll be done with #4 and ready for #5 by Tuesday at the latest..... FINISH #5!
posted by easily confused at 3:56 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


...I think I enjoy "world building" more then actually creating plots. I feel like there's no way the story could be as cool as interesting the imaginary world, and that by actually typing it out the whole book (rather then, say, just the first half) you can only diminish it and create something kind of mundane.

You nailed it. I deal with this every single day. I just wrapped up WOOL 5 and got it in the hands of beta readers, and now I'm looking at a blank document and thinking about my next top-secret series. The story and the fictional world in my head are so kick-ass, you just wouldn't believe it. And now I have to, as you say, diminish that world by making it concrete.

What you are describing is precisely the paralytic agent that makes writing a complete novel one of the most challenging endeavors I've ever undertaken. And I've done some crazy stuff in my life. But each time I do the impossible and hammer out a complete tale, I fear I'll never write anything so awesome ever again. I honestly go through what you're talking about almost every writing day. And then, I don't know how, but I start writing anyway, and I keep at it, 6-8 hours a day, until I've surprised myself again.
posted by Hugh Howey at 2:51 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


odinsdream & easily confused: Your enthusiasm made my Monday morning! I spent about 20 hours on WOOL 5 this weekend, mostly with revisions and edits. It is now in "Final Draft," which means a few beta readers are going through it and looking for issues and typos. I'll spend this upcoming week paginating and formatting it for physical copies and the Kindle edition, do an unveiling of the proof sometime next week, and two weeks from this Wednesday, the book will be in your hands (or on your Kindle!)
posted by Hugh Howey at 2:51 AM on January 23, 2012


I read Wool 1-4 and the Molly Fyde books over Christmas vacation, and they were so good. I am definitely a new fan!
posted by sawdustbear at 5:45 PM on January 23, 2012


I finished Wool 3 this morning on my commute. I wish more of my friends had Kindles that I could recommend it to.
posted by yeti at 6:44 AM on January 24, 2012


Hi Hugh. I bought WOOL on the recommendation of this post, and read it through in a couple days. It was pretty well crafted, and I didn't like it. It would make an even better short PC game in the vein of The Stanley Parable.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:38 PM on January 24, 2012


For those mefites who check their recent activity and are waiting for Wool 5, Howey released it early.
posted by yeti at 6:38 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh thank heavens..... now if you'll excuse me, I've got a little Amazonin' to do.....
posted by easily confused at 12:18 PM on January 26, 2012


Thanks, Yeti! I appreciate it. Glad you're enjoying them.
posted by Hugh Howey at 4:35 PM on January 26, 2012


Good news, I'm halfway through WOOL 4 and this is just in time.
posted by arcticseal at 5:30 AM on January 27, 2012


Chiming in late, because I finally recharged my super-dead Kindle to read Wool. Which I did, last night, and then promptly downloaded 2-4. And now 5 is out? I know how I'm spending my weekend! Thank you, Mr. Howey!
posted by alynnk at 6:53 PM on January 27, 2012


alynnk: WOOL 5 was released last week (a little earlier than I had anticipated). The reviews it's getting so far are embarrassing, to be honest.

The other great news for the series is that it's getting inquiries about film and TV rights. I've heard from two companies so far. One of them is my ideal choice, if I could have anyone turn this into a TV series. I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm right now. I'll be sure to update this discussion as soon as I know more.
posted by Hugh Howey at 9:09 AM on January 30, 2012


alynnk: WOOL 5 was released last week (a little earlier than I had anticipated). The reviews it's getting so far are embarrassing, to be honest.

I finished it last night. I read 1-5 in two days. The glowing reviews are deserved. Well done, sir.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:41 PM on January 30, 2012


Wow. Thanks! It's still hard to believe anything I wrote is worth such praise. Thanks for reading and for the feedback.
posted by Hugh Howey at 3:19 PM on January 30, 2012


Quarter of the way into WOOL 5 and it's shaping up nicely!
posted by arcticseal at 7:01 PM on January 30, 2012


This is such a fantastic world. I'm partway through 5 now, and dying to ask tons of questions about your process, but almost all of them would require spoilers, so I'll hold off for awhile.
posted by odinsdream at 8:13 AM on January 31, 2012


I love process questions. Use a bit ****spoiler***** warning or post on my forums. It would be fun to hear your thoughts as you wrap up #5.
posted by Hugh Howey at 7:33 AM on February 1, 2012


So . . . I spent an hour on the phone this week with three people from BBC Worldwide Productions. They want to turn WOOL into a TV series, possibly for one particular cable network.

And today I have an appointment to Skype with a literary agent. I'm not sure what she's pitching, if she sees potential for WOOL in other markets or if she wants to hear what I'm working on next, but it's an interesting development to be contacted out of the blue by agents you've heard of.

If any deals go down, you kids will hear about it first!
posted by Hugh Howey at 7:31 AM on February 3, 2012


That's so awesome because the whole time I'm reading this thing, I'm imagining the amazing visuals. It's one of the few books I can remember reading where there are these perfect cliffhanger moments literally from paragraph to paragraph, which matches up really well to the kind of surprise turns you can accomplish with a visual medium.

Please don't let some TV group fuck it up, though, like what happened with Walking Dead. You crafted such powerful visuals along with a very coherent, tight understanding of pacing that it would be a real shame to have some assholes rip it apart just to "sell it" or something.
posted by odinsdream at 8:38 AM on February 3, 2012


Ohoh! Process question! Contains a bit of a spoiler so I'll rot13 it:

Unir lbh urneq bs gur yvathvfgvp gurbel gung qvfpbaarpgrq tebhcf jbhyq qviretr rabhtu gb sbez, vs abg ragveryl arj ynathntrf, ng yrnfg qenfgvpnyyl qvssrerag qvnyrpgf va fbzrguvat yvxr 17 lrnef?

Lbh gbhpu n yvggyr ovg ba gur snpg gung gur Beqre vf n irel zrgvphybhf cyna. Ubj qb lbh guvax gur jbhyq rafher ynathntr pbagvahvgl orgjrra fvybf juvyr znvagnvavat bcrengvbany frperpl?
posted by odinsdream at 8:41 AM on February 3, 2012


Gung'f n terng dhrfgvba. V unq pbafvqrerq univat qvssrerag fvybf ersre gb qvssrerag fgehpgherf naq cnegf ol qvssrerag anzrf. Znlor gur "Qbja Qrrc" va bar fvyb vf gur "Hccre Sybbef" va nabgure (orpnhfr bs gur ynetre ahzoref). Gur bar havslvat snpgbe jbhyq or gur pebff-gnyx orgjrra gur urnqf bs VG, jub ner qvffrzvangvat vasbezngvba onpx naq sbegu. Fgvyy, gurer jbhyq or n ybg bs arbybtvfzf bire gur praghevrf. Irel, irel vagrerfgvat pbaprcg.
posted by Hugh Howey at 3:05 PM on February 4, 2012


It looks like I have an agent, who is going to shop around the WOOL series for its commercial potential in print. My hopes are low, but I figure it can't hurt.

Still waiting on the offer from the BBC. Am expecting it this week.
posted by Hugh Howey at 4:27 PM on February 8, 2012


It looks like I have an agent, who is going to shop around the WOOL series for its commercial potential in print.

Hooray!

Still waiting on the offer from the BBC. Am expecting it this week.

How excitement! Good luck.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:35 PM on February 8, 2012


Finished WOOL 5, loved it, looking forward to see what happens with the agent and BBC.
posted by arcticseal at 6:13 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Going back and forth with the BBC right now. Signed with the agent, who is going to try and shop the first four WOOL books as a single title to publishers, with the WOOL 5 acting as a standalone sequel (which I might plump up in the unlikely event things get that far).

Sales are still great. I'm hard at work on the first book in the next trilogy, which expands the WOOL universe with new characters in the spotlight. A lot of risks with this one, but the same was true with WOOL, and everything has worked out so far.
posted by Hugh Howey at 3:04 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


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